Caroline Chin Yee
In the Second Testament the Apostle Paul writes advice letters to ancient churches [epistles]. Those letters are addressed to the “saints” that live in each town or form the corresponding church community. It’s a word meaning “holy ones.” We tend to imagine crazy hard-to-believe stories of paragons of spiritual perfection, yet the term actually designates those who walk and live in the Way of Jesus, seeking to be holy as God is holy.
Part of the wonder of Advent is wondering about the coming of Christ: reflecting on the nativity story of his coming in ancient Israel as well as anticipating the future coming to make all things new. While we are invited to trust the testimony of those who went before us and anticipate in the hope we have for the future; we also are nourished by the living examples of those who have lived among us, living faithfully the Way of Jesus, responding to his call to a different way of living, for others, loving radically, making peace and building justice, even at the cost of one’s life. It’s often that we think of great Saints whose stories are remarkable and indelible part of world history such as Mother Teresa, Rev. Dr. King Jr., Hildegard of Bingen, Augustine, yet we all are impacted by the examples of those who live among us: lives which in their authenticity challenge and invite us to actively wonder what it means for Christ to come into the world and how we can live into his teaching, radical self-giving love and transformative justice for all those who are excluded and forgotten.
In reflecting on this hope I have in Christ, and which I struggle to live with my doubt each day, I’m encouraged and energized by the example of saints who live among us. One of those saints is Caroline Chin Yee who I was blessed to journey with in two churches. She died several years ago, yet the way in which she gave her whole life to the children of of the city of Oakland as a teacher and principal – not just to be good or nice, but to follow the vocation she heard in Christ to love as Jesus loved – moves me on a regular basis. She often exhorted her students to be(come) their best selves with her mantra “Have fun! Learn a lot!” [Her Obituary]
She once asked me to print out the blessing I regularly pronounce at the end of the weekly service as she found it so encouraging.
Go out into the world in peace.
Hold onto what is good.
Return no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the weak
Encourage the discouraged.
Pick up those who are suffering.
Honor all people.
Love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I later saw that she had it posted on the wall of her school principal office (which she shared with other staff members who had no office). She found it to be a reminder of our call. I repeatedly found her example, faith, doubt and actions to be a reminder to me of my call.
Who is a saint among you that pushes and pulls you to deeper faith and trust? How is their example contagious?, a living word to you of what faith and life mean?